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Friday, July 12, 2024

Kerala courts freeing Islamist child rapists after POCSO victims turn hostile

This week, a POCSO court in Kerala acquitted Muhammad Shareef, the father of an 11-year-old victim, accused of raping her for eight years. Though the Investigating Officer laid a report and the prosecution vehemently cross-examined the mother of the child and the minor victim, they turned hostile. Our so-called neutral media made no further information available to the public.

Lately, charges of raping a young boy were dropped against Rafeeque, the maulvi of a mosque in Kerala. The Special POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) court noted that there might have been a settlement outside of court.

The Muslim cleric lived in a bedroom that was connected to his mosque. Rafeeque allegedly took the minor to his room and placed himself over the 11-year-old youngster with sexual intentions. Mayyil Police registered a case under POCSO Act against the accused. Mayyil is in the Kannur District of Kerala State.

Initially, the investigation report reached the Additional District and Sessions Court-I, Thalassery, and the case was later handed to the Special POCSO court.

The POCSO court upheld all charges framed against Rafeeque, and yet he secured bail. After his bail period ended, he appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. His bail was extended.

The Muslim priest did not present any witnesses to support him in court. On the other hand, the prosecution called three witnesses: the survivor, his friend, and Suresh Babu PK, the police witness who also served as the case’s investigating officer.

There was evidence against the accused until the very end of the court proceedings. Rafeeque Maulavi could not present any supporting evidence to prove his innocence which might result in his acquittal. However, the survivor became hostile during the testimony recording and cross-examination.

According to Special Judge Jomon John, the minor was 13 years of age at the time of examination before the court and could offer sensible responses. The youngster flatly denied experiencing any sexual assault. The young man agreed that he had signed the First Information Statement (FIR) that might have implicated the maulvi. He disagreed with the contents of the FIR that was produced in court as evidence by local police.

By declaring ignorance, the second witness—who also happens to be a friend of the survivor—weakened the prosecution’s case. Even aggressive cross-examination by a Special Public Prosecutor could not yield any significant findings.

Suresh Babu presented extensive documents containing investigations and reports. The court observed, “He (Investigating Officer) deposed that he had conducted the investigation and laid final report against the accused. However, as the material witnesses did not support the prosecution, the evidence assumes no significance.”

Judge Jomon declared the young boys hostile and noted that the prosecution failed to extract evidence. “It appears from their evidence that the entire matter had been settled out of court,” the judge said.

Why do judges grant bail when the applicants are a threat to society? Do such pedophiles tamper with evidence and intimidate witnesses?

A shocking 3,549 POCSO cases were registered in Kerala in 2021. This means at least ten children were raped/abused each day. Malappuram district, with a 75% Muslim population, headed the list with 457 cases. Most cases allegedly involve a particular community, but the government has refused to recognize the issue.

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